Saturday, August 27, 2016

7 days until the Smithsonian Exhibit Opens!

(You think I have time to write a blog?  You have got to be kidding!) 

Friday, August 26, 2016

Channel Cat Tales Water Pumps

Someone asked me how many water pumps like this one are left in the county.  Do you know where this one is?.....It's at Sumner Cemetery.  If you know the location of more, please email  Or better yet, send a photo.

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Attempted Rape 1909

 Lawrence County News August 12, 1909

A warrant was issued Saturday for the arrest of John Gravitt, charged with attempting to rape Amanda, the 18-year-old daughter of Charles Bearley, living east of this city. The girl keeps house for her father, her mother being dead, and her story is to the effect that young Gravitt came to the house Saturday while her father was absent and forcibly attempted to gratify his passions. She resisted and finally escaped and made her way to a neighbor’s. The girl’s clothes were badly torn in the struggle. Gravitt made his escape and so far has not been captured.

Lawrence County News August 19, 1909

John Gravitt, who was wanted for rape on the person of Miss Amanda Bearley, was arrested by Sheriff Vandament at Decker, Indiana Saturday and brought to this city. He waived a preliminary hearing Monday and was placed under $300 bond; failing to give bond, he was remanded to jail.

( Ed note:  Apparently young Gravitt's father got into a fight with Amanda's father. This time, what had two weeks before been labeled as attempted rape, was now being called "family troubles." )

Lawrence County News on August 26, 1909

Charles Bearley and Sam Gravitt indulged in a fistic encounter Friday over family troubles and Gravitt seemed to be getting the best of his opponent. Bearley then drew a knife and proceeded to cut a few slices from Gravitt’s arm and neck. As a result Bearley appeared before Squire Monjar, Monday, waived a preliminary hearing and was bound over to the Grand Jury in the sum of $200. Several stitches were required in dressing Gravitt's wounds and he has an ugly looking scratch on his throat where Bearley was hunting for his jugular vein.

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Sometimes the ‘Good Guys” Turn Out to be the “Bad Guys” Part Three

Sometimes the ‘Good Guys”  Turn Out to be the “Bad Guys”  Part Three

(Continued form August 23)

The problems of Deputy Luther Clark and City Marshall Joe Rodman continued. Owing to the fact that young John Blair’s death was thought to have been due to brutal treatment received at the hands of Clark at the time of his arrest Saturday night, Clark was taken into custody, and held pending a thorough investigation of the case.  'Big Joe' Rodman, the town marshal, who was out on bond for his part in the former shooting of Francis Bates, was re-arrested by Sheriff Vandement of Lawrenceville and taken back to Lawrenceville and placed in jail also.  His arrest was caused by the fact that the men who had posted $1000 bond in the earlier Bates case desired to withdraw as sureties because of this second trouble that had come up.

Johnny Blair’s parents were dead, but he was survived by his brother Charles, who began his own investigation, and let it be known that if his brother came to his death as a result of violence, he would seek justice. He engaged Attorney Pritchett of Vincennes to look after the case, while he took the remains of his younger brother back to Warren, Ind, their former home.   

On December 6, 1909 a Grand Jury was convened with Joseph Gray as foreman. Witnesses called were Charles Blair, V. A. Hutchinson,  Rawn Spencer, Polk Wade, A. F. Withrow, James Johnson, Levitt B. Flanders, Virginia McConnell, John Griggs, John Gaynor, L. Boyd, and  Patrick Caney.  Clark was indicted for manslaughter of Blair.

Luther Clark was charged with unlawfully, feloniously and willfully striking, beating, cutting and bruising John Blair on Dec 4, 1909 with a deadly weapon, being described as a policeman’s club 2 ft. in length and 1 ½” in diameter, inflicting a mortal wound to Blair’s head. As a result of this beating, Blair died on the fifth day of December 1909.   It was also charged that Clark threw Blair down upon the sidewalk with great force and violence. The autopsy showed that the mortal wound was about 2 inches long and penetrated  the brain on the left side of Blair’s head.

The editor of the Lawrence County News editorialized that the general opinion in Bridgeport was that the verdict of the jury was just. “It (was) too bad that a smooth faced 19-year-old boy had to be killed in order to get the city officials to think seriously of the value of a human life. Had this boy lived until the opening of Police Court, Monday morning, the same old stereotype charge of ‘drunk and resisting an officer’ would've been placed against him. Bridgeport’s  court and councilmen should advise their police and teach them when it's necessary to use a club or gun, and not uphold their brutality of any description. The old residents of Bridgeport should take back their town and stop this slugging and shooting. When their own citizens held office in Bridgeport, they had no coroner's inquests over deaths resulting from their officers. Old citizens who have lived there and paid taxes for 35 years are insulted by Marshall Rodman if he doesn't like them or if they do not hold up for his brutality, and every citizen of Bridgeport holds this against the Mayor who upholds this man.  Luther Clark, the Deputy Marshal, is a boy of that town and is an ex-Philippine War soldier. He has served as an officer before, gave satisfaction and had a host of friends; everyone spoke well of him, old taxpayers pronounced Luther a good officer and now they claim that, like old dog Tray, he has fallen in with bad associates.”

But before Blair trial was held, the grand jury met again on May 6, 1910. Luther Clark and Joe Rodman were again indicted, this time for Assault with Intent to Kill Francis Bates with a loaded revolver.   Bates had subsequently died. Foreman of this Grand Jury was again Joseph Gray and the witnesses this time were Red Elliott, Chas Flanders, Mike Cohen, Abe Ball, and Chas Blair.
Witnesses to be called for a October 4, 1910 trial in addition to the ones testifying before the grand jury, were Harry Oldsworth, Gertrude Blair, George Baxter, F. D. McKelfresh, Minnie Mann, Abe Mann, Adelbert Rose, Harry Ulrick, J. A. J. Black, Thomas Lackey, and Bert Claycomb.

The trial was delayed and Subpoenas were sent for a later trial date to be held on May 4, 1911 against Luther Clark to the following witnesses: Dave McKelfresh, Dr. J. F. Schrader, Clay Seed, J. D. Madding, Chas. Spencer, L. D. Leach, Fred Gillispie, Jim Ridgely, Dr. C. M. Lewis, J. A. J. Black, Noah Ridgley, and  Hugo Lewis. Benj. O. Sumner was the State’s Attorney.  

(Ed Note:  Now Readers, are you waiting to see what the outcome was?  You will just have to read the book when it is published by the Society....Sorry.  )

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Sometimes the ‘Good Guys” Turn Out to be the “Bad Guys” Part Two

Sometimes the ‘Good Guys”  turn out to be the “Bad Guys”  

(Continued from Blog Post of August 22)

The new trouble for Deputy Luther Clark came at 11:00 Sunday morning December 4, 1909  when  John Blair was discovered  dead in his jail cell at the town hall, where he  had been placed the night before by Officer Clark.

John Blair, a pumper for the J. K. D. Shaffer Oil Co had been arrested Saturday evening just a few steps from his lodging place on Chestnut Street and locked up on a charge of public intoxication. 

One of the field bosses for the Shaffer Company reported that he saw Blair about three-quarters of an hour before his arrest and that Blair had asked for his pay, but was put off until the tenth of the month, the regular payday of the company. John or Curly Blair, as he was familiarly known, was but 19 years of age and came to this place from Warren, Ind. when the oil boom began with his brother C. B. Blair, also employed by Shaffer Oil Co.   Curly was of a cheerful disposition and was well liked by all who knew him.  He was not considered a man of a quarrelsome disposition, although at times he indulged in liquor.

A prominent citizen, who witnessed the arrest of Blair by Officer Clark, alleged he saw the officer strike Blair twice, the first blow knocking Blair down, and the second blow being delivered as he attempted to rise to his knees.  This citizen was unable to tell just what the officer struck him with, but he thought it was a mace.  Another report was that Clark was seen to strike Blair with his fist after he had placed him in the cell. 

After the body was discovered at 11:00 am, Coroner Black was at once notified.  He arrived at 5:30 Sunday evening and the inquest lasted until 8:30 pm. Dr. J. F Schrader, was the Foreman; Tom Lackey, the clerk, Clay Seed, Bert Claycomb, Joe Jordan and L. B. Flanders made up the Coroner’s jury.

The evidence showed that the dead man was John Blair and his home was previously  at Warren, Indiana; that he was very drunk Saturday night and had cursed several people when the officer came to arrest him and that in making the arrest  Officer Clark had hit him, knocking him down; that he then took Blair and locked him up. At breakfast time Sunday morning Blair ate nothing, saying he was sick, and laid down in the hall of the jail where he died without medical attention.

The coroner’s jury, as well as the dead man’s brother who was present, requested a post mortem examination, to be done by Drs. Boyd and Caney of Vincennes.  The doctors came on the early train Monday and arrived at 9:15.  By noon they had completed their autopsy by removing the crown of the skull and exposing the brain to view. On the left side of the brain was found a clot of blood as large as an egg, which caused his death. Both physicians gave sworn testimony that this clot was from the effects of a blow.

The sealed verdict of the Coroner’s jury was turned over by the coroner to the grand jury. 

( Continued tomorrow)

Monday, August 22, 2016

Sometimes the ‘Good Guys” turn out to be the “Bad Guys”

 Sometimes the ‘Good Guys”  turn out to be the “Bad Guys” 

Because of the discovery of oil in 1906, Bridgeport grew overnight from a sleepy farming community to a boom town filled with oil field workers and the ‘services’ to accommodate them.  In 1909 Joe Rodman and Luther Clark were the lawmen in Bridgeport and tried to maintain the peace. 

The groans of men, the wails of women and screams of children mingled with the crack of policeman's guns aroused everybody in the city about 5:45 Monday evening October 18, 1909. Bridgeport Marshal “Big Joe” Rodman and Deputy Clark attempted to arrest a man for defrauding an innkeeper or as the charge was then known, ‘for beating a board bill.’

According to a newspaper reporter bad feelings existed between Rodman and Calley and Calley told 
the Marshall to get out, further saying: “When I need you, I’ll call you.”  Whereupon a fight commenced and raged between man and officer. 

At this point the Deputy, Luther Clark, arrived on the scene and immediately took a hand assisting his chief in his efforts to handle Calley, who was being clubbed roundly.  Mrs. Calley tried to interfere and was also maced  clubbed) according to one observer.

Francis Bates interfered and in the process he was shot with a loaded revolver in the hands of Deputy Clark. The bullet passed entirely through the body, entering on the right side just low enough to penetrate the lower love of the liver. 

Roy McCall, who was standing near Bates, was shot in the neck by a bullet.  John Calley of Calley’s restaurant was also injured. Both Bates and McCall were taken to Good Samaritan Hospital in Vincennes, each mortally wounded. The wounded men had previously lived in that city.

Threats were made against the two officers following the shooting. Clark claimed the shooting was in self- defense.

Rodman and Clark were arrested Oct 21 and taken to the Lawrence County jail by a sheriff and 2 deputies in an open carriage which was followed quite a distance by a jeering crowd.  The warrant for their arrest was sworn to by Mrs. Calley, wife of John Calley.

By December, Clark and Rodman were out of jail on bond and back on the job awaiting trial. However, Bridgeport would once again been thrown into a terrible turmoil as a result of alleged high-handed methods by these guardians of the law.  Coming so soon after the Bates affair, the citizens were not in a happy frame of mind.

The new trouble came at 11:00 Sunday morning December 4, 1909  when  John Blair was discovered dead in his jail cell at the town hall, where he  had been placed the night before by Officer Luther Clark.

(Continued tomorrow)

Sunday, August 21, 2016

Sponsor an Exhbit- Be a part of the "Smithsonian is Coming to Lawrence County"

In just two weeks, the Smithsonian will be bringing a 650 sq. ft. traveling exhibit about Water and the Ways it has influenced and shaped the world to Lawrenceville.   This special event, one of only 6 sites chosen to show this exhibit in the state of Illinois, will be free to the public. It will arrive on September 3 and stay until October 15, 2016 so everyone will have a chance to see this thought-provoking exhibit.

The Lawrence County History Center will also have new exhibits corresponding to this Water theme. In order to allow Lawrence County residents and businesses to be a part of this important event, sponsors are being sought for these companion exhibits.

Working with consultants from the Illinois Humanities Agency in conjunction with the Smithsonian, these local exhibits have been constructed around water-related events that have occurred in Lawrence County.  By sponsoring an exhibit for $100, a family or a business will have the opportunity of having their name associated not only with this historic Smithsonian related event, but with a particular local exhibit if they desire.  All sponsors will be invited to a special private Sponsor Event on Sept 2, from 4-7 pm. 

The exhibits available for ‘adoption’ are:  Stivers Springs, Lake Lawrence, Red Hills State Park, Water and Agriculture, Water and Religion, Pearl Fishing, Mastodons, The Bridgeport Fire, Migration to Lawrence County, Steamboats on the Wabash, and Early Water Mills in Lawrence County. All of these exhibits are related to water and how it shaped the lives of Lawrence County Residents. 

By being a sponsor, you not only assist financially in this event, but  your support is a  vote of confidence in the Lawrence County Historical Society.  As a sponsor, your name will be sent to the Smithsonian, you will receive recognition during the event and you will be entitled to one of our newest publications written just for this exhibit: Water, Water Everywhere.
 (This book will retail for $25 to non-sponsors.)

So if you haven't sent your check yet, please consider being a sponsor. If you are interested in sponsoring a particular exhibit for $100 contact Donna Burton by email:  For more information  click here

 LCHS  is a 501(C) 3 organization for tax purposes. 
Checks can be sent to PO Box 425 Lawrenceville, Il 62439